We’ve seen Nottingham Forest’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde during the restart — often in the same game — and you have to wonder which of them are going to turn up sometimes. Throw referee Oliver Langford into that mix and you’ve got a heady combination.
There’s absolutely no denying that a point against Swansea City tonight was vital. A win would’ve secured the Reds a play-off position with two games to spare, but when are Forest ever going to do it the easy way?
As it was, we have a lot to thank Sammy Ameobi for. A brace against the Swans, each time from a goal down, gave the home side the edge and confidence that there is more to this side than soaking up pressure and playing on the break.
Forest were completely penned back in the early stages, with Swansea making headway down their left wing — perhaps identifying Carl Jenkinson and Nuno da Costa as the weakest pairing. André Ayew had an early header, followed by Connor Roberts shooting into the side netting.
And then Rhian Brewster scored on 8 minutes, after another attack down the left-side. A cross from Jake Bidwell and the on-loan Liverpool player, just inside the box, hit a sweet strike straight past Brice Samba.
Forest were caught fast asleep and da Costa switched wings almost immediately. Fifteen minutes in and Forest looked totally bereft of ideas.
But this is the side we have. Out of nowhere, Sammy Ameobi wriggled past a couple of defenders after 20 minutes and curled the ball past Erwin Mulder from the D — a beautiful right-foot shot into the top-right corner.
And after that Forest sprung to life and settled down for the remainder of the half, very much keeping Swansea at bay.
Until just before half-time when Ryan Yates brought Ayew down just inside the box. Or did he? Langford pointed to the spot, but the decision was far from straightforward. Ayew then stepped up and scored, despite halting his run-up halfway.
It was a very soft penalty, a controversial conversion and indicative of the referee throughout the game.
Forest looked fired up after the break — during which time the referee seemed to be totally losing control — and it was Ameobi who struck again just 10 minutes from kick-off. After picking it up on the right, he cut inside, holding off a defender, and struck a low shot in the bottom corner of the net.
The home side, looking a different side after an hour’s play — maybe sensing their destiny — continued to play some of their best football since the restart. A big spell of possession before the 70-minute mark showed how they can dominate a game when they want to.
And after Kyle Naughton was sent off eight minutes before the end, for a horrible foul on Alex Mighten, Forest continued to chase the win into the six minutes of added time.
It wasn’t the three points to guarantee a top-six spot, but another point from the final two games should secure that. And it was a huge demonstration of the heart, commitment and talent that Sabri Lamouchi has assembled this season.
The manager concluded: “We created and we tried with the substitutes to win this game. One point is not enough to secure play-offs but it is one more point and we are close to the achievement.
“It was difficult for the players physically tonight and they used a lot of energy, we need to think about that but what can we do, they tried. There were some mistakes, of course, and they were tired, of course. Some goals we could avoid but the reaction was there.
“We were better in the second-half, we kept a direct opponent away from us and we have two games to go.”